Use the internet to find the best flight deals – 12 tips you can try before you book
If you want to find the most competitive prices for your holiday, weekend break, round-the-world trip or whatever, it pays to use the internet to find the best flight deals.
You don’t need to visit your local travel agent or waste time contacting individual providers. If you spend a bit of time searching the internet at the planning stage, you will probably find a great deal which costs a lot less.
How do you find the best deals?
I have been doing some research on this and some of the tips listed below I already use myself but I have also discovered some new ones. So, before you book, take a look and see whether there are any tips you could use to get a better deal.
1 Compare prices
There are many flight search engines where you can compare prices and find the most attractive deals. These so-called aggregator sites search hundreds of airlines, agencies and companies to bring you the very best offers and deals. Check out Monomondo, Skyscanner, Kayak and Google Flights for starters.
Although using flight search engines is a great way to do price comparisons it should be noted that these sites don’t necessarily include all airlines (some choose not to work with them) and the prices quoted may not actually be any cheaper than booking directly with an airline. So, always check the prices offered directly by an airline before you buy.
2 Use your smart phone
Some research done by a university in America found that prices quoted to users of smart phones were sometimes more favourable than the prices offered to desktop and laptop users. It has also been suggested that prices vary according to the operating system you use (for example, on a Mac or PC). A quick way to check this is to compare prices using a variety of devices and operating systems.
3 Secret searches and cookies
Some people say that flight prices change if you do repeated searches on a particular route. When you do a search your browser stores your search results in a data file known as a cookie and so it would be possible for providers to increase their prices when you come back for a subsequent look to scare you into making booking before the prices get even higher. However, there is no real evidence of prices being adjusted in this way – prices fluctuate according to a variety of criteria. If you are concerned, you can either clear your cookies (i.e. browser history) or do a secret search (known as incognito or private browsing mode).
4 Book early
Book early if you know where you are going and you know when you want to fly. The cheaper airlines typically offer their lowest rates when they first go on sale and the prices then tend to rise as the tickets sell.
5 Be flexible about when you fly
If you’re not obliged to travel at a particular time, then check out the prices for a variety of dates and days. For example, in general it is cheaper to fly on Tuesdays and Wednesdays whereas Fridays and Sundays are often the most expensive. Also avoid school holidays and public holiday periods such as Christmas and Easter. Many search engines enable you to search the prices for a whole month enabling you to find the best deal.
If you really want to keep track of fluctuating flight prices, the Hopper app (for IOS and Android) uses its accumulated data to predict prices and trends. Hopper not only lets you book flights from your phone, it also sends you alerts telling you when it’s the best time to buy.
6 Be flexible about where you go
Many flight search engines also enable you to search the whole world to find the cheapest tickets. For example, Google Flights and Kayak Explore both let you search using a map of the world with all flights and prices. With Skyscanner not only can you use their ‘everywhere’ search to find the best deals on flights to anywhere in the world, you can also search for the cheapest months.
So, if you are flexible about where and when you want to go, this is an excellent way to find some great deals to places you may have never even thought of or considered.
7 Set up special deal and price alerts
If you are happy to have even more emails landing in your inbox, then sign up to the mailing lists of search engines and airlines to get updates about their latest deals and offers. Some travel search websites such as Skyscanner and Momondo, track airfare prices and issue alerts. Some offers may only be for a limited time and so it is useful to be one of the first to know.
8 Choose which days you make your booking
Sometimes the best fares can be found on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. This could be because some airlines update their databases mid week and they offer good deals if seats aren’t selling as quickly as they would wish.
9 Only take hand luggage
Many budget airlines charge extra for hold luggage and so only take hand luggage if you want to save money. However, do check that your hand luggage conforms to the size and weight restrictions of the airline you are using because the penalty charges can be quite high.
10 Last-minute deals
If you are happy to leave your booking until the last minute, you may find some airlines offering lower fares in the middle of the week for travel that weekend or within the next few days. This is great if you are flexible about when and where you want to go.
11 Consider alternative airports
If you are flying somewhere where there is more than one airport to choose from you could choose the less expensive option. Whether this makes financial sense will depend on whether the combined cost of the flight and getting to your final destination is less than the cost of flying to the more major airport. You may also want to consider the length of the journey from the smaller airport to your final destination. If it is shorter and the overall cost is less then go for it.
12 Look out for airline error fares
Error fares are fares which are offered by airline companies at ridiculously low prices when a mistake has been made when publishing their prices. This may be due to technical problems, currency conversion issues or even human error. Whatever the reason, if you know where to find these error fares you can grab an amazing deal. You may end up going somewhere you hadn’t even thought but if you like a bit of spontaneity in your life this could be for you. Check out Secret Flying and Holiday Pirates for error fares and great deals. When booking an error flight check the small print before making the booking.
One final word
If you know of any other ways you can use the internet to find the best flight deals, then do leave a reply below.